USDP Denies Ties to Detained Ex-lawmaker Accused of Funding ARSA

By Htet Naing Zaw 5 March 2018

NAYPYITAW — The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) said it has nothing to do with a man detained by police last week for allegedly funding the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

Aung Zaw Win, 55, the owner of Yangon-based Shine Construction Co. Ltd., was arrested at the Yangon International Airport on Wednesday on his way to Thailand.

He was a USDP lawmaker representing Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township in the Lower House from 2010 to 2015, during the government of U Thein Sein.

According to two suspects arrested in connection to the violence in northern Rakhine State in 2016, the Nga Khu Ya police station in Rakhine had opened a case against Aung Zaw Win for murder and causing grievous harm and other offenses under the Public Property Protection Act, the Arms Act and the Unlawful Associations Act.

USDP spokesman U Nanda Hla Myint said Aung Zaw Win had resigned from the party before 2015.

“Aung Zaw Win and [Rohingya rights activist and former Lower House lawmaker for Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township] U Shwe Maung have already resigned from the party. When I took my post [as USDP spokesman], they had already left the party,” he said.

At Naypyitaw’s request, Dhaka handed over two suspects receiving medical care in Bangladesh who reportedly told investigators that Aung Zaw Win had funded ARSA, said U Zaw Htay, director-general of the President’s Office.

“Based on their testimony, the judge issued an arrest warrant for Aung Zaw Win. But he was at large and finally arrested on Feb. 28, when he tried to go to Bangkok,” U Zaw Htay told The Irrawaddy.

He said police were still investigating Aung Zaw Win and had yet to hand him over to the court. The Maungdaw District Court issued the arrest warrant in 2016 and declared him a fugitive last year.

Ethnic affairs analyst U Maung Maung Soe claimed that all the necessities for the more than 700,000 Muslims in Maungdaw were being delivered directly from Yangon, though he was not sure whether ARSA was involved.

“According to the information I’ve gathered, trade in all necessary goods for all the Bengalis over the past six years since 2012 was controlled by Yangon. The government should conduct an in-depth investigation to find out who was involved and to what extent they were involved,” he said.

Many people in Myanmar refer to the Rohingya as Bengali, implying they are not a distinct ethnic group with legitimate ties to Myanmar but illegal immigrants from Bangladesh even though many families have lived in Rakhine State for generations.

U Tun Kyi, a Muslim and a former political prisoner, said he denounced any form of violence and any individual, organization and religion that supports violence.

“I grew up in this country and have decided to protect its independence and sovereignty at the cost of my life. So I accept no terrorist organization,” he said.

Though Myanmar enacted a Counter-Terrorism Law in 2014, U Tun Kyi said it has rarely been applied. He cited the January 2017 assassination of prominent Muslim lawyer and NLD legal adviser U Ko Ni at the Yangon International Airport, in which case the alleged gunman, Kyi Lin, has been charged with murder but not under the Counter-Terrorism Law.

He also criticized the recent arrest of Arakan National Council executive committee member Ko Naing Soe over a bomb attack that injured a police officer in Rakhine State in late February.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.